You have to stay on top of things in the wrestling business in order to stay relevant and arguably no one has done a better job of that than Dave Meltzer. He is the editor and publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and he talked about keeping up with the business when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast.
"You've got to work really hard to keep up. If you're in this business and you are lax and stop paying attention, it goes fast," said Meltzer. "I learned that fast, unfortunately in a bad way, from Watts who was the friggin' genius of all geniuses in the 80s and he came back in the 90s and hadn't watched in five years. It was, 'Oh my God! You're way behind and you're friggin' Bill Watts!'
"I thought nobody knew more than Bill Watts and at the time I don't think anyone did. That was a real scary thing to me. I don't care who you are – Mike Tenay who is a super-genius but if he stops watching wrestling for five years then he is gonna be out of touch too. By the way that's why he has never stopped watching wrestling even after retiring because I think he is afraid of exactly what I just said [laughs]."
As related to Vince McMahon keeping up with his chief competition in AEW, Meltzer says McMahon doesn't watch them and just has people around him telling him they have a crummy product. Meltzer said WWE can't admit that AEW is a good product much how they treated WCW back in the day.
"That's really what it is – who's got the better product? I don't wanna say who's gonna win because if AEW and WWE were both head-to-head on Monday night, WWE would win based on the fact that they have the 27 years in the timeslot lead," stated Meltzer. "So, they would win even if AEW had the better show. But in time and if you gave it a year or two and AEW had a better show two straight years, then they would win. But it would take time to pull that off."
He then noted that when UFC first got on SPIKE TV, people didn't think they would overtake boxing but after about a year they eventually did.
"Yeah because they don't like to lose. That's a black mark on Wednesday especially when the gap is big like it's been the last two weeks. Even though they've only won the demo once in this whole time, I think they probably look at winning the total viewers as a win from their side because they always lose. It's something – it's competition to them," said Meltzer.
"I think it's a lot more concerning when you look at the 18-34 numbers being so close to Raw and SmackDown when Raw and SmackDown don't have wrestling competition and AEW does. I think that is most concerning because that's newer viewers and future viewers. The fact that 10 months in it's pretty darn close and if you didn't have NXT, AEW would actually be winning those demos. I think that's a lot more concerning than beating NXT on Wednesday night."
The height of popularity in pro wrestling was during the Monday Night Wars and Meltzer gave some insight as to what peak viewership looked like back then.
"I think there were points where it hit 12 million and a few times over 11 million. But I think 9 million was the peak. 9-10 million most weeks was pretty much where it was. There were moments at 12 and the hottest of the hot probably hit 12 million and 11 million on a few shows – not individual shows but combined the two audiences," Meltzer said before being asked how it compared to Monday Night Football.
"The combined two wrestling shows never beat a regular season Monday Night Football game ever. They did beat preseason games but they never beat a regular season game."
Many wrestling fans watch either NXT or AEW on Wednesdays while some fans flip back and forth. Meltzer gave an estimate as to how many fans try catching both programs at the same time.
"From last week's show I saw the minute-by-minute and this is not an exact number but 250,000 is probably not far off. Where you really can see is during the commercial breaks. When AEW goes to commercial, the number of people that switch to NXT and vice versa is way bigger than people think. I would say the swing – and I could be off by a little but this is not far off – would be 250,000," said Meltzer who then noted that a lot more audience is retained with picture-in-picture.
"Absolutely, when you have picture-in-picture you hold your audience better than when you have none. It's absolutely a difference maker, yes."
Dave Meltzer can be found on Twitter @davemeltzerWON. Dave's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.